Big West Notebook
Cal-State Northridge probably thinks otherwise, but the regular season conference championship should be decided February 9th at UC-Irvine. On that day, the Utah State Aggies visit the Anteaters. The two dominant teams in the conference will battle it out for the second time of the year. Irvine is in the driver’s seat, having defeated the Aggies at Utah State on December 20th. The Anteaters will need another superb game from senior guard Jerry Green, who dropped 31 on the Aggies last time out, in order to cement the victory.
The Northridge surprise
Few expected the Cal-State Northridge Matadors to contend for the conference title. The Matadors have only beaten one team out of the conference, mighty Dominican Cal, and lost by 34 to Howard University, hardly a basketball powerhouse. But the newbies from the Big Sky have impressed, winning seven of 10 conference games. How? Well, for starters, playmaking point guard Markus Carr has been outstanding. The diminutive senior is averaging better than 17 points and 4.5 assists per game. Carr has sparked Northridge’s offense, which ranks fifth in the league. The Matadors, who went to the NCAA tournament last year, will be a formidable opponent in the Big West tourney.
The Santa Barbara disappointment
Many preseason magazines and web sites touted the Santa Barbara Gauchos as the team to beat in the Big West. It never matriculated. Back-to-back losses to Utah State and Idaho have all but eliminated the Gauchos from the regular season race. Santa Barbara’s loss to Idaho was particularly disappointing, as the Gauchos managed just 37 points and never were able to dictate tempo. This was after an impressive preseason that included wins against Pepperdine, Brigham Young and Detroit.
Big West games of the week
Cal-State Northridge at UC Santa Barbara (Saturday, February 9th) – Must win for both clubs to even be considered for the regular season crowd. Upstart Northridge will find visit to Santa Barbara just too much.
Utah State at UC Irvine (Saturdat February 9th) – This is a battle of the top two teams in the conference. It is imperative for the Aggies, who already lost a home contest to the Anteaters. Green will be just too much in this key matchup.